Senior Living Sales Barriers: Your Prospects Have Issues

Apr 12, 2024 | Sales/Sales Training

By: Hoyle Koontz, Partner, The Vectre

It’s no secret that the senior living prospect journey for Life Plan Communities is typically a long and arduous process for sales teams. The latest data from ALINE indicate that 43 activities on average are required to get a move in, so sales professionals must use all the skills they possess and the tools in their toolbox to drive the sales conversation.

If you’ve been in this business even a few months, you are well aware of the objections. However, you may not be aware of psychological barriers. The goal here is to help you become more empathetic about your prospects’ motivations. This will help you consider how you can alter, evolve or even revolutionize your sales process.

With 15 years of experience dedicated to digital products within senior living marketing and sales, our team at The Vectre has heard many client challenges. For Life Plan Communities, sales conversions dropped 7% in 2023 after a short period of demand, just after the pandemic eased. This new data from ALINE also show an average sales cycle of 782 days.

May webinar graphic

Watch the webinar recording to learn more about some proven strategies to unlock the potential of selling to seniors in today’s digital landscape.

In our April 25, 2024 webinar, The Vectre Partner Hoyle Koontz, Roobrik CEO Nate O’Keefe, Love & Company Strategic Sales Advisor Joan Kelly-Kincade, and Love & Company President/CEO Rob Love shared their insights on proven strategies to unlock the potential of selling to seniors in today’s digital landscape in our webinar, “Emotional Intelligence Drives Success in a Digital-First Marketing World.”

Many sales processes evolved to assist prospects that are more tech-savvy, and sales teams have become more entrepreneurial to meet their prospects where they are. Adult children are now more involved at an earlier point in the sales cycle. More and more, prospects are asking, “What’s in it for me?”

To address these changes, sales teams must focus on prospect-centered sales, which require deep discovery. The days of a community having an “optimum tour path” for all sales appointments are over. May we all agree that feature-dumping is not effective? Practically every community has multiple dining venues, an aquatic center and a fitness center. Amenities alone are not going to be the differentiator for a prospect that is shopping multiple communities. The “sea of sameness” is upon us.

So how do you make the best first impression in a highly competitive market space? Personalization is the key. You must craft a sales solution for each of your prospects.

But even with a personalized prospect-centric approach, you’re still faced with a few psychological barriers. While this blog post isn’t going to cover all of them, we’re going to focus on two psychological barriers that prevail in every Life Plan Community we’ve partnered with.

The Paradox of Choice – I’ve always known about this issue, but I didn’t know about all its psychological underpinnings until about 5 years ago. The best way to illustrate the paradox of choice is to think about the menu at The Cheesecake Factory. At more than 20 pages, it’s spiral-bound, heavy and more like an encyclopedia than a restaurant menu. With more than 250 choices on the menu, it’s no wonder reports state ordering takes 2.5 times longer at The Cheesecake Factory than any other upscale casual restaurant. Too many choices inhibit making a decision – that is the paradox of choice.

Translate that example to the decisions required in the senior living sales process:

  • Am I ready for senior living?
  • What community do I choose of the 5 to 10 near me?
  • What floor plan do I choose of the 30 or 40 floor plans offered?
  • What financial plan type do I choose?
  • What finishes do I choose?
  • What furniture do I bring with me?

Our prospects are likely making the last major decision of their lives, and they are deeply concerned that they are making the right choice. Interestingly enough, there’s a secondary psychological dynamic that creeps into the mix. All these decisions generate a feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) for an opportunity that might come their way.

Given all this pressure on the prospect, there is no doubt that sales counselors must do just that – counsel. Due to the complexity of senior living, sales teams must guide their prospects to the right decision. Sales teams can’t do that by walking the “optimum tour path” and feature-dumping. For each respective prospect, sales counselors must get to the root of a prospect’s motivation, gain an understanding through discovery and craft a personalized solution.

The Forgetting Curve – After all that, another psychological beast is still lurking in the shadows to practically erase all the work you’ve done with your prospect. All the details you’ve provided, the education you’ve worked so hard to deliver and the custom tour you’ve provided – all these hours spent are in peril. Why? The forgetting curve.

While you may think this issue primarily affects older adults, the forgetting curve affects all ages. Originally studied in the 1880s (nearly 150 years ago!), the German psychologist who discovered it studied how our brains recall newly shared information. His research still holds true today and affects us daily. Much like the data storage on our phones, our brains only have so much room to store information. Therefore, as the forgetting curve states, we purge 50% of newly learned information within one hour. Yes – ONE HOUR. Seventy percent of that new information gets purged within one day, and 90% of that new information is gone within one week.

To complicate things further, the challenge here is that no singular solution to this issue exists; however, repetition, repetition, repetition is critical. We must equip our prospects with tools that reinforce personalized content, helping them to recall and retain details that are specific to their needs.

But not just any information will do. Seeing is believing. It’s critical to reinforce a prospect’s experience with rich visual content – imagery that tells a story. A picture really is worth a thousand words. Here are some statistics that reinforce how critical our eyes are to helping us recall information:

  • ~40% of nerve fibers are linked to the retina. [Source: “Brain-Based Learning” by Eric Jensen]
  • ~90% of all information transferred to the brain is visual. [Source: Movable Ink]
  • 36,000 visual messages can be registered by the eye every hour. [Source: Visual Teaching Alliance]
  • 13 milliseconds are all that is required for our brains to process an image. [Source: Movable Ink]

As our prospects become more tech-savvy and continue to evolve, our sales teams must also evolve their sales practices and processes. Digital tools and solutions (such as ours at The Vectre) are designed to empower sales teams to better focus on the prospect journey. In keeping with our core solutions, we recommend sales teams focus efforts to:

  • Stop feature-dumping. Personalize for the WIN!!
  • Drive the sales conversation, but don’t provide too many options that will stall the process.
  • Reinforce your conversations and tours with personalized content—especially visual elements—that helps prospects recall your major value proposition.

For more information on the paradox of choice, I highly recommend reading The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less by Barry Schwartz.

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